There is some strange thrill that goes along with creating complex recipes, I tend to include at least one for every country I explore. The Bastilla is an intricate savory (and yet still sweet) pastry that is generally served during wedding feasts in Fez. The dish is served between the Moroccan Salad Course and the Main Course which will generally include a tagine like my Lamb Tagine with Apricots and Onions or a big couscous meal like my Lamb and Duck Couscous with Apricots.
For dinner for a small group of friends, I will serve this as a main dish, but for Moroccan dinner next week, it will be traditionally served between the Salad Course and the Main Course!
This dish can be simplified significantly, if you are not in the mood for a project! Simply replace the traditional Warqa dough with phyllo dough and you are good to go! It becomes as easy as a casserole! If you do use the phyllo dough, replace a sheet for every sheet of warqa mentioned and make sure to butter each phyllo since the warqas have already been oiled in cooking. Keep your phyllo under a moist cloth to prevent it drying out.
Honestly, the warqa dough isn’t even that hard to make, it just feels intimidating when you first read it. I love making the dough because there is something so satisfying in peeling paper thin dough from a skillet with your fingers.
There are many different versions of the Bastilla, but they were traditionally made with a mixture of pigeon and almonds. Like many contemporary cooks, I switched the pigeon to chicken, but if you can get your hands on pigeon (or quail), use them instead! Just stew the meat for about 10 minutes less.
Walking into a room with this dish is so much fun!
2 cups high gluten flour
1/4 cup all purpose flour
(OR 2 1/4 cup bread flour)
1 tsp salt
2 cups water (plus extra as needed)
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. olive oil + additional for brushing
- If you can find high gluten flour, use the first combination, but I find that bread flour has enough gluten to work. In a stand mixer, combine flours if using and aadd salt.
- Combine vinegar and water in separate bowl with a lip.
- Add oil to the flour mixture and pulse.
Slowly add water, mix until smooth batter is formed. Do not panic if there are some lumps, they will dissolve overnight.
- Cover and refrigerate the dough overnight, or at least for four hours.
- Oil a 12 inch copper tin lined skillet if you have one. This is the traditional method, but a nonstick skillet should work just fine! Take a paper towel and remove excess oil.
Heat the skillet.
- Mix up the dough and use a bristle brush to brush on a thin coat of dough, fill in any holes with a second thin layer.
Cook on one side until the surface turns white, the thin edges will begin to peel up a bit.
- Peel the warqa up and place cooked side up on a paper towel.
- Brush with oil and repeat.
- Stack all of the warqas up and wrap in plastic if not using immediately. They can be refrigerated for up to three days.
You should make somewhere between 16 and 24 warqas.
6 chicken thighs
4 tbsp. hot water with a pinch of saffron
1 tsp. ground ginger
3/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon + 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 medium onion, finely chopped
6 tbsp of butter or ghee
3 cups ground almonds
1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
9 eggs, beaten very well
1 egg yolk, beaten
1/3 cup roasted almonds
- In a Dutch oven, combine chicken, saffron water, pepper, ginger, turmeric, nutmeg, coriander, cumin, and 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon and a bit of salt. Coat all of the chicken and allow to sit for about 20 minutes, or refrigerate overnight.
- Meanwhile, combine almonds, confectoner’s sugar, and remaining 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon in a separate container. Set aside.
- Add cinnamon sticks, onions, cilantro, and parsley, and 4 tbsp ghee to the Dutch oven.
Brown the chicken a bit, for about 5 minutes.
Cover with 2 cups water, or enough to cover the chicken.
- Cover and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so.
After 45 minutes, fish out chicken and leave on a platter to cool. Remove bones and skin and tear the flesh into little pieces. Leave in a colander to remove excess moisture.
- Meanwhile, boil down the cooking liquid to about 1 1/3-1/2 cup. Add more water if necessary. Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning.
Once reduced, add the lemon juice.
- Make sure the eggs are well beaten, and stir them in slowly. Stir continuously until the eggs are cooked through and curdled. Do not panic if they cook through but do not separate into curdles, that is fixable too!
- Strain the eggs through a fine mesh sieve or a cheese cloth. If your eggs did not separate and it is having a hard time draining, place on a skillet and cook for a bit as if you were making scrambled eggs, this will separate the liquid quickly and allow you to strain out the excess broth.
Leave in a colander to drain while you are assembling he pastry. You can also keep the eggs and chicken separately in the fridge overnight if you want to make everything the day before.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Take four warqa and fold them in half gently. Bake them for just a minute to get crispier. Set aside.
- For the pastry, I use a 12 inch copper skillet, but any skillet will do. Brush it with a tablespoon or so of melted ghee.
Take one of your non baked warqas and place one at the bottom of the skillet.
Take 6 more and arrange them in a radiating pattern from the center like petals on a flower. The edges will hang over the side. Refer to photo.
Place one more in the center of the pan.
- Add the chicken in an even layer, press down with your fingers.
Add the egg in an even layer on top.
- Take the baked warqa, unfold them gently and cover the egg surface.
- Add almond mixture on top of the baked warqas.
- Reserve 3 warqa and arrange all of the others on the top of the almond mixture.
Fold in the overhanging warqa and brush with egg yolk to seal. I like to imagine wrapping a cabbage as I am doing this.
Add the remaining 3 in a radiating pattern and fold their edges under the pastry as if you were making your bed.
Cover the surface with more ghee and the remainder of the egg yolk.
- Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
- Carefully place a metal round over the surface and flip onto a buttered cookie sheet.
Bake for 10 minutes longer.
- Flip onto a serving platter carefully.
- Sift confectioner’s sugar over the surface and make a diamond grid of cinnamon.
Inside each diamond, place an almond.
Total cooking time: 4 hours plus a night for resting the dough, serves 6-8 as a meal or 12-14 as a traditional pre-tagine course.